Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Do We Own Our Children?

I hate sharing my kids. There, I said it. It's selfish and I never admit it to them, but I hate it.

On the day they switch to their dad's house for the week, my heart feels hollow. I hate that day. Which can make it very tempting to hold on too tightly to them when they are home again.

My oldest daughter, Kate, has a friend who is the sweetest thing in the world. She truly is one of the nicest people I've ever met. Unfortunately Kate and her friend don't get to spend as much time together as they'd like. Because when her friend is at her dad's house, she isn't allowed to spend much time with friends or at any other social function. Her dad is one of those parents who thinks that because she is only there every other week, she owes him her time. So sad.

Do our kids owe us their time? Really? If anything, we owe them the opportunity to live as normal a life as possible. In most circumstances, children did not ask for their parents to divorce but the children are the ones being asked to bear the brunt of the inconvenience of a two household family. Some of that is, unfortunately, just part of the deal. But as parents we should alleviate this in any way we can.

Manly Man Dad Friend, whom I have mentioned before, is a single dad. I'm sure there must be others out there who've got it figured out like he does. But so far, he's the only divorced dad I know of who does it right. When his kids have social events or slumber parties or lock-ins or sports camps or any other activity planned for his scheduled weekend, guess what he does? He shares in his children's excitement, makes sure they have what the need, taxis them to the location and picks them up the next day. Imagine that! He actually lets his kids enjoy their childhoods without making them feel obligated to give him their time and attention.

So, let me ask you, which kid has a closer relationship with her dad--the one who must log the prescribed hours or the one who gets to have a normal social life?

The parents who are so focused on forcing their children to log hours just don't get it. The parents who won't allow the child to go to dad's because it mom's week, just don't get it. The parents who guilt trip kids into staying home because the parent feels insecure just don't get it. What don't they get? Respect, for one thing. They also don't get that they are teaching their kids that love is conditional and that obligation is more important than acceptance.

So when I'm tempted to hold on too tightly, I give a great big hug--one that will last for the entire time they are apart from me. And I remind them over and over and over again: "I don't own you. I love you."


  1. Deb,
    We own them heart and soul. I can't imagine having to "share" them the way my daughter has to "share" her son. Thanks for the insightful post.
    Roar on.

  2. This issue doesn't just arise in divorced families. Parents who are still happy together face the same problems. Your daughter goes to school Monday at 730 has practice until 530 and works until 800 then has tumbling lesson until 930. Homework, facebook, quick from the boyfriend then bed at 1100. Tues-school then bball game, home late for homework facebook and bed. . Thursday is the same as Monday and Friday the same as Tuesday. The weekend of course is practice and out with friends. What about Wednesday you ask? She has practice from 700-930. That leaves Wed after school until 630 free--for coffee with us?--for her friends who she hasn't seen all week because she is so busy!!

  3. sorry--should say' quick" visit" from the boyfriend'

  4. Deb, I can't even imagine what it's like to share your children. I can only hope that I would be as fair to mine as you are to yours. You are an inspiration to all of us. XOXO

  5. Thank you for your comments, ladies. Parenting is not always easy, married or divorced. Thank you, tclark, for reminding us that we share our children every day with all kinds of people. It gets difficult when a sick child calls from the other parent's home and wants you but the other parent says no because it's his time. Or when those before-bed talks come via text message, instead of face to face and with hugs. Or when the kids have to be late for practices because the other parent would rather them have to make that sacrifice then dare call you to help taxi because it's not your week and that would be an interference with his parenting time.

    Nevertheless, these are simply the day-to-day frustrations of co-parenting from two homes. And as we know, even two-parent homes come with day-to-day frustrations. It's the attempt to handle those frustrations with respect and love that make the difference.

    Thank you again for your comments. I love reading them. Makes me feel like I'm not blogging into empty space!!